Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease. It
slowly destroys a person’s mind and the ability to complete everyday tasks.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s by conducting tests, noting
behavior changes, and assessing memory impairment. There are many different
types of doctors who can diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s.
Primary Care Physician
If you notice changes in
a friend’s or loved one’s memory, thinking, or behavior, you should contact
their primary care physician. They can help with the following:
- conduct an exam to see
if any physical or mental issue has caused the problems
- give a brief
memory-screening test, such as the Abbreviated Mental Test Score (AMTS). A
score lower than six out of ten suggests a need for further evaluation
- provide essential
medical history information needed for an accurate diagnosis
- identify changes in the
patient’s memory and thinking others may miss
The doctor also can
refer you to the right kind of specialists as needed.
Geriatricians work with
older adults. They know whether symptoms indicate a serious problem.
Geriatric psychiatrists specialize
in mental and emotional problems of older adults. They can assess memory and
Neurologists focus on
abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system. They can conduct and
review brain scans.
tests of memory and thinking.
Memory Clinics & Centers
Places like the
Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers have teams of specialists to help with
diagnosis. A geriatrician can review your general health, a neuropsychologist
can test your thinking and memory, and a neurologist can use scanning
technology to “see” inside your brain. Tests often are done on site, which can shorten
the time required to make a diagnosis.
A Word About Clinical Trials
Although not right for
everyone, clinical trials may be an option. Begin your research at a credible
place, such as the Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials Database. This is a joint project of the NIA and the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s maintained by the NIA's Alzheimer's
Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center.
Getting a Second Opinion
AD diagnosis is not
always easy. A second opinion is sometimes part of the process. Most medical
professionals understand this and should give you a referral. If not, there are
a number of other resources available, including the Alzheimer’s Disease
Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, which is a service of the National
Institute on Aging (NIA).